Why you should treat candidates as if they were customers


I am starting my career in HR and I have recently been for two interviews with an NHS organisation. The experience has left me disappointed. Given the organisation was in special measures, I would ...

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If you don’t ensure the recruitment experience is positive, even for the unsuccessful, the cost to your business could be significant

For every successful candidate for a job there will be many more who are unsuccessful. And for too many of those the experience will not be a positive one – and it needs to be.

If you don’t think it matters here’s an interesting statistic from Virgin Media. It looked at job applicant survey data over a 12-month period in 2014 and found that 6% of job applicants were customers who, as a result of their recruitment experience, chose to unsubscribe. That lost revenue would equate to more than £4 million. As you’d expect, it very quickly set about changing the way things were done.

In marketing it has long been recognised that unhappy customers tend to spread their unhappiness around. Depending on which research you look at that’s anything between nine and 15 people who get to hear about their disappointment, and with social media they can spread that unhappiness very quickly. So there is a compelling business case for ensuring that the recruitment process is positive whatever the outcome for the applicant.

But how can you balance the process against the costs? Isn’t it the case that the more you try to make the candidate experience positive, the higher the costs are going to be? The answer is yes but I would argue that (as the Virgin Media case shows) there are hidden costs if you fail to get it right – and more than a few positive benefits if you are willing to spend a little to ensure that it goes well. What’s more, it doesn’t have to be hugely expensive to be effective.

In many cases it isn’t going to be possible to give individual feedback to every candidate, but how about providing some encouragement? You could offer advice on all manner of areas useful to jobseekers, from interview tips to helpful hints on how to improve your CV. This is a brand-building opportunity – a chance to show that their interest in you is reciprocated.

Here’s one really major suggestion – give them money as a ‘thank you’ for their time and effort. It doesn’t have to be cash, but a voucher would almost certainly pay for itself. Existing customers will be happy to redeem them and you have a chance to convert others. After all, they thought highly enough of you to want to work for you so they may be equally happy to become customers. It’s likely to pay back considerably more than its costs, as well as building up your brand at the same time.

Whatever you decide, you need to do something positive. The Virgin Media example proves just how ‘expensive’ a rejection can be, but at the same time it’s also an opportunity to do something which will not only make rejection less damaging but also turn a potential minus into a big plus. It’s a chance to keep those people engaged with your business – something a marketer wouldn’t consider unusual at all – and nor should those of us who work in the recruitment side of HR.

Jon Porter is managing director of Yocto, the RPO division of TMP Worldwide


I am starting my career in HR and I have recently been for two interviews with an NHS organisation. The experience has left me disappointed. Given the organisation was in special measures, I would have thought the interviewers would have inspired me to work for them. Instead the interviewers were more interested in burying their heads in their clipboards and asking me ridiculous questions rather than engage with me in a human way. Afterall isn't that why the word 'human' features in Human Resource Management? I did not get the jobs, and I can honestly I would not have taken them anyway. I have much experience in the private sector as a manager for a sales and marketing company. I did a lot of recruitment. Public Relations featured a great deal in my interviews because I wanted people to come and work for my company. Its a transaction, applicants want to work for you and therefore, companies should go out of their way to ensure people want to work for them. I am even more disappointed that we are still discussing this matter after all these years. Businesses need to attract the best talent therefore, HR should be asking 'Why would people want to work for us and what can we do to make ourselves attractive to candidates'? Its common sense isn't it? Or is it because there is high un-employment and employers simply do not care enough about how their businesses are perceived. As a CIPD student due to finish my diploma level 5; I am frustrated that HR appears to still be trying to work out the business function of its role; I would say stakeholder engagement was pivotal to the HR function. Without staff and customers you simply do not have a business.


Most companies do treat their candidates for employment like they treat their staff and customers. Unfortunately it's badly, and without any thought, because if you don't treat staff with consideration you certainly will not treat customers or prospective employees with any. You rely on current staff to actually set the company standards.

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